Churchill Academy & Sixth Form is an independent entity governed by the Academy Trust Board. Our Trustees are responsible for ensuring high standards of achievement for all children and young people in the school by ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction; holding me and my senior leadership team to account for the educational performance of the Academy and its students, and the performance management of staff; and overseeing the financial performance of the Academy and making sure its money is well spent.
Our Trustees are volunteers, who give their time willingly and freely in the interests of the students of the Academy. They have been working tirelessly (albeit mostly remotely) to continue their governance of the Academy through the pandemic. The significant investments in our site, our staffing, and resources to keep children safe and learning have all been as a result of the board’s skilful, knowledgeable and expert governance. In fact, as we reflected this week at our first in-person, socially distanced meeting since the pandemic began, our Academy is in a very strong position to ensure that the education recovery from the pandemic continues for our students.
This week we have published our priorities and development plan for the coming year. The development plan supports the second year of progress towards the Five Year Plan which sets our sets our strategic direction from 2020-2025. You can read the full Academy Priorities and Development Plan for 2021-22 on the Academy website, but in this post I will take you through the key areas which we will be focusing on in the next academic year.
Setting the direction
The past year has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has caused unprecedented disruption to education, with two years of cancelled exams and two separate periods of national lockdown seeing the Academy closed to all but the children of key workers and identified vulnerable students. Even when schools were fully open, self-isolations disrupted learning, and public health concerns suspended our ability to bring our community together through assemblies, vertical tutoring, and extra-curricular activities.
In the wider world, the Black Lives Matter, Me Too and Everyone’s Invited movements have highlighted some of the raw underlying tensions in our society. The voices of those who have too often been marginalised and oppressed have come to the fore on social media and on the streets. This swirling maelstrom of tension and conflict has resonated at Churchill too; we must do all we can to help our students understand the contexts of inequality so that they can go on to make a positive difference themselves in building a more tolerant, inclusive, just and equal society.
Despite the challenges, 2020-21 saw the realisation of developmental work on the curriculum, teaching and learning, and student leadership. The success of our bid to rebuild Stuart and Lancaster house areas saw the realisation of long-term plans around the learning environment. This year is about the implementation of those long-term plans, with careful quality assurance to assess their impact.
Priority 1: Inclusion and diversity
Our top priority is to continue to develop our values-led culture so that everyone understands the importance and value of diversity and inclusion, particularly with reference to ethnicity, gender and neurodiversity. This means that we will be working hard to ensure that staff and students fully understand the underlying issues relating to inclusion in schools, so that all students feel welcome and thrive at the Academy.
Central to that will be a focused drive to ensure that everybody understands that there is no place for racism, sexual harassment, discrimination or prejudice at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form or in society. These are big issues for us as a country, and across the world, at the moment. If we are to achieve our purpose as an Academy – to inspire and enable young people to make a positive difference – we must work together to ensure that all our students are able to help ensure that we continue to make progress as a society. It is vital that everyone has an equal chance to succeed, no matter where they come from, who they are, how they identify, or how they experience the world. We intend that our education over the coming year, and beyond, will address these issues head on.
Priority 2: Student engagement and leadership
We know that our students are wonderful. Our second priority for next year is to ensure that we give them the opportunity to show the leadership we know they are capable of, in service of the Academy and the wider community. This work has already started this year, with the formation of the Student Council and the introduction of the leadership ladders. With the Academy closed to the majority of students from January through to March, we weren’t able to make as much progress with this as we would have liked – but we have great plans for the year ahead!
At the same time, as we emerge from the grip of the pandemic, we want to revitalise our extra-curricular programme, inter-house competitions, trips, activities and all the things that bubbles and COVID restrictions have prevented us from doing – all the “extra” stuff that makes Churchill special. Our aim is to ensure that every single student can participate in, and benefit from, the experiences that the Academy has to offer.
Priority 3: Teaching and Learning, and Priority 4: Curriculum
Our core business is wrapped up in priorities 3 and 4. The curriculum is what we teach; our pedagogy is how we teach it. We have developed a set of evidence-based teaching and learning principles which characterise effective pedagogy; over the past year we have been weaving those principles through our newly redesigned curriculum. September 2021 will see the roll-out of both these vital aspects. This roll-out will be accompanied by careful ongoing evaluation, to make sure that both what we are teaching, and the way we are teaching it, are working in tandem to ensure that our students make the best possible progress in every lesson.
Priority 5: Sustainability
Our final objective for next year focuses on the fifth element of the Five Year Plan, which has the goal of ensuring we are a sustainable institution financially, environmentally and in human resources. Behind the scenes we will be working hard to ensure we are as efficient as possible, so that every penny possible can continue to be spent on improving the education of our students. More visibly, we will be pushing forward on our Green Churchill agenda, improving recycling provision and driving down our carbon footprint still further in pursuit of our goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. We will be relying on our students to help us drive this part of our work – we want to be the greenest school in the south west, if not the country!
These five objectives are ambitious and challenging – but that ambition is what makes Churchill successful. We have achieved so much this past year, despite the pandemic; I am excited at the prospect of what is possible with a full and hopefully uninterrupted year ahead of us.